While some people expected the Mets to be right around the .500 mark, including yours truly, the fact that they've achieved their record without Johan Santana throwing a single pitch and with their corner infielders and leading power hitters (David Wright, Ike Davis) disabled for a good chunk of the first half is all the more Amazin'.
Now that the Mets have reached the 81-game plateau, let's look back at the first half and dig up some interesting stats on your fav'rit men in blue and orange.
By pitching the final inning of today's loss, Francisco Rodriguez reached the season's midway point with 30 games finished, putting him on pace for 60 such games, or five above the 55 needed for his contract to vest for 2012. Even if K-Rod doesn't get traded to another team, he might have difficulty reaching 55 games finished, and it might be his own fault. Here are his stats before and after his team's 81st game over the past few seasons:
- 2010: First half - 1.99 ERA; Second half - spent most of it either disabled or in handcuffs.
- 2009: First half - 1.59 ERA; Second half - 6.67 ERA.
- 2008: First half - 1.88 ERA; Second half - 2.70 ERA.
- 2007: First half - 2.27 ERA; Second half - 3.41 ERA.
Historically, Frankie Rodriguez has performed extremely well in the first half of the season, only to come back to Earth in the second half. If 2011 becomes his fifth consecutive season with a sluggish second half, he might be taken out of games he would normally finish, due to a rough outing or twelve. So far this season, he has finished 30 of the 38 games in which he has appeared.
Jose Reyes. What else can we say about him that hasn't already been said ad nauseum? After today's 2-for-3 performance, his batting average is up to a lofty .352, with an on-base percentage hovering around .400. He leads or is among the league leaders in batting average, hits, multi-hit games, runs scored, doubles, triples and stolen bases. But there might be some things you didn't know about his historical season.
Did you know that Reyes is also the toughest player to strike out in the National League, fanning 26 times in 374 plate appearances? Did you know that Reyes is sixth in the National League in slugging percentage (.529), despite having only three home runs? Did you know that Reyes has more triples (15) than eight National League teams do? (For the record, here are the other teams and their total number of triples: St. Louis (13), Los Angeles (12), Florida (11), San Francisco (11), Washington (11), Pittsburgh (10), Cincinnati (9), Atlanta (6).)
For our final stat, let's look at the team as a whole and compare them to the Philadelphia Phillies. No one will confuse the Mets for the Phillies, the team with the best record in the National League and one of the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series. However, statistically speaking, the Mets are better than the Phillies in a number of unexpected categories.
The Mets are second in the National League in batting average (.264). Where are the Phillies? All the way down at No. 10 with a .246 average.
For all the great sluggers the Phillies have, it is the Mets who have the higher slugging percentage (.388), while the Phillies are 11th in the league with their .375 mark.
The Phillies have a number of players who might receive an intentional walk or two. However, it is the Mets and their singles-hitting lineup who lead the National League in walks, drawing 293 free passes over their first 81 games. The Phillies have 272 in the same amount of games.
As expected, the Phillies have more home runs than the Mets, leading New York in that category, 67-52. But for all those balls leaving the yard, it is the Mets who have crossed the plate more often, and it's not even close. The Mets have outscored Philadelphia over their first 81 games, 369-327, showing that small ball can be just as effective in the run-scoring process as looking for the three-run homer.
Alas, despite the unexpected offensive superiority of the Mets over the Phillies, they still trail Philadelphia by 9½ games in the NL East. Why is that? Well, the Phillies happen to lead the major leagues with a 2.98 ERA, while the Mets are near the bottom of the league with their 4.06 ERA through 81 games. As the old saying goes, pitching wins championships. It also does a good job of hiding the fact that the Phillies are a very flawed team offensively, while negating many of the fine hitting performances by the Mets.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Mets' pitchers have to bow down in front of the great Phillies' staff.
If the Mets are going to compete for the a playoff spot in the second half, they'll need to improve their pitching. Their starters have been decent, for the most part, but decent equals mediocre. They'll need to step it up on the mound if they're going to go far enough above .500 so that they don't even see it in their rearview mirror. And if they can do that, they'll also lose sight of various National League teams in the rearview mirror as well.
The second half of the season will be very interesting indeed. The team that finishes the second half might not be the same team that begins it tomorrow against the Yankees at Citi Field. David Wright, Ike Davis and Johan Santana may or may not be back in the second half (let's cross our fingers and hope for "may" instead of "may not"), but at the same time, players like Carlos Beltran and Frankie Rodriguez might be trying to help another team get into the postseason.
To paraphrase one-time Mets' nemesis, Joaquin Andujar, the baseball season can be summed up with one word, and that word is "you never know". With the 2011 Mets, you never know which team is going to show up. Will they be the team that scored 52 runs in four games or will they be the team that mysteriously forgot how to use their home field to their advantage?
You never know with these Mets. That's why they're so much fun to watch.